After lingering in Sete for longer than we were supposed to, we drove north to the marina to end all marinas - Port Camargue.
Had a wonderful morning in Sete, visiting a huge food market and feeling very French. Ate the local speciality – Thielle or octopus pie – which is surprisingly delicious, even at half nine in the morning.
Then it was off to visit Monsieur Font at the marina. He looks the spit of Howard Keel in his Dallas days – cowboy belt buckle and all – and seemed very nice, although he couldn´t speak English so could have been really rude and I wouldn´t know. But through Carol´s translation, it became clear that he is ultra-passionate about the town´s port de plaisance and wants the world and his wife to visit. There are no permanent berths at the moment (surprise surprise) but anyone who visits is guaranteed to get a visitor´s spot. And as the Yacht Club runs the marina, there is a whole programme of events throughout the summer to welcome visitors. It´s not the world´s most sophisticated marina, but it has all the facilities you need and a really great town within 3 minutes´walk.
A drive past lÉtang de THAU (done my homework…) showed that it´s a great spot for some flat calm boating, although to be honest it looked a little unexciting. A precursor for the flat Camargue wetlands that were to come.
Port Camargue is absolutely enormous and just one big boat park – no Cap dÁgde-like holiday resort here. We toured the marina in the Capitainerie´s RIB and it seemed like forever before we circumnavigated the whole shebang. Again, a year´s waiting list to get a permanent berth here, depending on the size of your boat, but always temporary moorings available.
Colin and Sally Beaumont have had a berth here for two years for their Fairline and are intent on staying. There spot is in one of the public marina areas, ie not attached to an apartment, but they love it for the tranquility and the boating community. It´s certainly quiet compared to the other mega-marinas in the Languedoc. All the cars are kept away from the waterfront and there are very few bars and restaurants within shouting distance of the boats. The management here pride themselves on their environmental friendliness and even the water taxis that take you from one side of the complex to the other are electric.
Considering it´s a seventies development in the midst of several quite lairy marinas, Port Camargue is surprisingly stylish and serene and I liked it very much as does everyone who berths here it seems. There is a turnover of approximately 400 boats a year in terms of permanent berths, so there might be a better chance of finsing one here than at other places.
Plus, you get 13km of huge, sandy beach next door, the lÉspiguette, where it might take a year to walk to the sea when the tide´s out, but you´re almost guaranteed a spot without someone else´s red, bikini-ed backside stuck in your face. And the old fishing port of Grau du Roi, a short hop from the marina, is also a pleasant diversion and an escape from the modern marina.
The Languedoc coast has been a real eye-opener, particularly for my first taste of the reall, really big Med marinas. When you see all those boats in one place, it hits home just how full the Med is.
Oh, and I saw LOADS of flamingos.